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FOOD FUN: Easter Naked Cake With Chocolate Nest

In our first apartment, we began to bake Easter cakes. For years, we had a Nordicware lamb-shape cake mold. We baked a chocolate cake (a black sheep, as it were), frosted it in vanilla and covered it with white flaked coconut.

One year, we out grew the lamb, gave the mold away and moved on to a layer cake. The sides were covered in white coconut and the top was green-tinted coconut, the “grass” upon which we placed our favorite malted-milk speckled candy Easter eggs.

After years of dying coconut, and with complaints from those who didn’t like coconut cake (you know who you are!), last year we made this Speckled Easter Malted Milk Cake.

Alas, lacking a good hand for smooth icing, ours didn’t look quite this pretty. We haven’t met anyone who can show us the trick.

So this year, we’re minimizing the need for icing by going with a naked cake (see photos).

A naked cake can have can have a light, uneven swath of frosting on the outside with naked cake showing through (see the nakedness here).

Or, it can have no side frosting at all. That solves my particular challenge!

NAKED CAKE VS. STACK CAKE: THE DIFFERENCE

Is a naked cake the same as a stack cake? No.

Both of these layer cakes are so newly trendy that the terms are often used interchangeably. But they are different:

  • A stack cake has zero frosting on the sides, just between the layers—and often just powdered sugar on top.
  • A naked cake has an iced top, and can have a light swath of frosting on the sides (a semi-naked cake), as described above.
  • Stack cake is an older concept from Appalachia; it was a typical wedding cake in that economically-challenged region. Each neighbor brought one unfrosted cake layer to the party (it could be any flavor), to be stacked with layers of frosting provided by the bride’s family.
  •  
    EASTER CAKE IDEAS

    We like the concept of stack cake as a modern party idea—a pot-luck cake, as it were. Here’s how to throw a stack cake party.

    This Easter, we’re not going to ask everyone to bring a layer (maybe next year, guys). So we’re making a naked cake.

    We’re currently thinking orange pound cake layers topped with a great ganache. (It’s great when you make it from the best chocolate, like Callebaut or Valrhona). Make any cake and frosting recipes you like, 2 or 3 layers. You can add fruit to the frosting layers (raspberries, sliced strawberries).

    Thanks to the video below, we’re topping our cake a chocolate nest, filled with our [still favorite after all these years] speckled malted milk eggs. It is a really easy technique.

    You can find other nest recipes made with everything from shredded wheat and pretzel sticks to Chinese fried noodles and uncooked rice vermicelli. Trust us: The chocolate nests are easier—and taste better.

    You have plenty of time to practice: All you need is sugar water, melted chocolate, two pans, a bowl and a squeeze bag.
     
     
    VIDEO: HOW TO MAKE CHOCOLATE NESTS

     

    Naked Easter Cake

    Easter Naked Cake

    Naked Chocolate Cake

    [1] Here’s the recipe for this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake from Chewtown. We used the chocolate basket recipe in the video below. [2] This naked cake from Black Jet Baking Co. is decorated with jelly beans and sprinkles (photo courtesy Good Eggs). [3] We prefer this type of side icing on our naked cakes (photo courtesy King Arthur Flour).

     

    Here’s the recipe with measurements.

    Note that this recipe makes individual nests. For a cake of 8-9 inches diameter, use a bowl as your mold instead of the foil.

    We did not make the leaves or feathers shown in the recipe, but instead filled our basket with malted milk eggs.

      

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    FOOD FUN: Birthday Cheesecake Recipe

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Birthday Cheesecake

    Chocolate Ganache Cheesecake

    [1] A birthday cheesecake with sprinkles inside (photo from Wine & Glue). [2] Instead of the standard cheesecake graham cracker crust (like this one from Sally’s Baking Addiction), we used a birthday-like sponge cake layer. [3] We love a chocolate ganache topping on cheesecake (photo courtesy Baked By Nature).

     

    Some birthday boys and girls prefer cheesecake to a birthday cake. Even those who like cake may have tired of the conventional cake with buttercream filling and frosting.

    If the celebrant is a cheesecake lover, make it a special birthday cheesecake with sprinkles or confetti, and an optional chocolate ganache top.

    Plan ahead: the cream cheese needs several hours to soften to room temperature.

    We adapted the recipe below from one by Lisa of Wine & Glue.

    Lisa calls her recipe Cake Batter Cheesecake, but we changed the name to Birthday Cheesecake because there’s no cake batter.

    (On the other hand, if you want to make cake batter ice cream, which does use cake mix for that cake batter taste, head here or here.)

    We also added a cake crust adapted from one by King Arthur Flour, and the chocolate ganache frosting for chocoholics.

    For more dressed-up cheesecake ideas, check out Pimp Your Cheesecake.

    RECIPE: BIRTHDAY CHEESECAKE

    Ingredients

  • 3 eight-ounce bricks quality cream cheese (full fat), softened to room temperature
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles/confetti, plus extra for top if desired
  •  
    For The Sponge Cake Crust

  • Softened unsalted butter, for buttering the pan
  • 1/3 cup sifted cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 drops pure lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  •  
    Plus

  • 9-inch springform pan
  • Foil
  • Birthday candles
  •  
    For A Ganache Top

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Optional garnish: sprinkles/confetti or chocolate shavings
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the crust. Preheat the oven to 350°F and generously butter the bottom and side of a 9- or 8-inch springform pan (preferably nonstick). Wrap the outside with aluminum foil, covering the bottom and extending it all the way up the side (this prevents leakage).

    2. SIFT together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks on high for 3 minutes with an electric mixer. With the mixer running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the sugar and continue beating until thick, light yellow ribbons form in the bowl, about 5 minutes more. Beat in the extracts.

    3. SIFT the flour mixture over the batter and mix it with a spoon, until there are no remaining white flecks (do not over-mix). Blend in the melted butter. In a clean bowl using clean, dry beaters…

    4. BEAT the egg whites and cream of tartar together on high, until frothy. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the whites will stand up and look glossy, not dry).

    5. FOLD about one-third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. If there are still a few white specks, they’ll disappear during baking.

    6. GENTLY SPREAD the batter over the bottom of the pan and bake just until set and golden (not wet or sticky), about 10 minutes. Watch carefully and don’t let the top brown. Touch the cake gently in the center. If it springs back, it’s done. Remove the pan to a wire rack to cool.

    7. INCREASE the oven heat to 375°F and prepare the filling. With the mixer on low, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Then beat in the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla and almond extract. Finally, beat in the eggs.

    8. CONTINUE mixing until you can no longer see any yolk (it’s O.K. if the batter has a few lumps). Slowly mix in the sprinkles with a spoon.

    9. POUR the batter into a 9-inch springform pan and bake for 40 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake sit for an additional half hour. Remove the pan from the oven, let cool, and chill at least four hours or overnight in the fridge.

    10. MAKE the optional ganache. Place the chocolate in a large, heatproof bowl and set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until it begins to bubble around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute.

    11. WHISK the mixture until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache forms; about 2 minutes. Pour the ganache over the cheesecake. Leave plain or garnish as desired. If you don’t use sprinkles to garnish, the birthday cake underneath will be a surprise. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

     
    MORE BIRTHDAY RECIPES FROM LISA

  • Cheesecake Batter Cookie Dip
  • Birthday Cake Bark
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    HOLIDAY: Cereal Donuts For National Cereal Day

    Donuts With Cereal Toppinf

    Cereal Donut

    Lactaid Whole Milk

    Types Of Lactaid Milk

    [1] and [2] Cereal-topped donuts and milk from Show Me The Yummy. [3] and [4] Lactaid for everyone! (photo courtesy Lactaid).

     

    March 7th is National Cereal Day, and here’s the big question: Do you drink the leftover milk in your cereal bowl?

    According to a survey by Wakefield Research*, 74% of Americans frequently drink the leftover milk in the bowl after finishing their cereal; 79%* feel that dairy milk tastes best as leftover cereal milk

    We’re one of them. We even pour extra milk into the bowl, just so we’ll have enough left over.

    People love cereal milk so much, that pastry chef Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City whipped up cereal milk as a standalone drink.

    Quirky? Yes. Tasty? Yes. Here’s a recipe to make you own.

    As a lactose-intolerant American, we just can’t enjoy nondairy milks—almond, coconut and soy milk, for example, on our cereal.

    Thank goodness for Lactaid. We live on their milk, chocolate milk, ice cream and cottage cheese. All are real milk products, neutralized with the addition of lactase (like Lactaid pills), which provides the enzyme our system no longer produces.

    We can drink and eat all we want, no Lactaid pill required.

    Lactaid sent us this special Milk + Cereal Donut recipe from Show Me The Yummy.

    Those of you who have no lactose issues can use regular milk.

    Prep time is 45 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes. We ate three of them today, and they are delish!

    LACTOSE-FREE MILK + CEREAL DONUTS MADE WITH LACTAID

    Ingredients

    For The Donut Base

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (15.25 oz) box cake mix, yellow or chocolate (most store-bought cake mixes are lactose-free)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup Lactaid whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cereal of choice
  • 1 cup crushed cereal of choice
  •  
    For The Vanilla Glaze

  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons Lactaid whole milk
  • Pinch salt
     
    For The Chocolate Glaze
  • 1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tablespoons Lactaid Whole Milk, more if necessary
  • Pinch salt
  •  
    Topping

  • Cereal(s) of choice
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MAKE the donut base. Combine the milk and 1/2 cup cereal of choice in a small bowl. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and spray a donut pan or mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

    2. WHISK together in a large bowl the cake mix, egg, oil, and milk-cereal mixture until well combined. Stir in the crushed cereal.

    3. ADD the batter to the pan. For a mini-muffin pan, use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop to fill the prepared mini muffin pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes. For a standard muffin pan, make a small cut in the corner of a gallon sized Ziplock bag and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into the prepared donut pan. Fill only halfway up or they’ll spill over. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

    4. REMOVE from the pan and let cool.

    5. MAKE the vanilla glaze and/or chocolate glaze. Whisk together glaze ingredients in a medium sized bowl until smooth.

    6. ASSEMBLE: Dunk the cooled donut into the glaze and roll into cereal of choice. Enjoy immediately!

    ________________

    *The Lactaid Survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,009 nationally representative U.S. adults ages 18+, between February 6th and 10th, 2017, using an email invitation and an online survey. Quotas have been set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. adult population 18 and older.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Cookies For St. Patrick’s Day

    One friend of ours has a set of shamrock cookie cutters, and makes shamrock shortbread every St. Patrick’s Day. She tops them with green and/or white royal icing, and an assortment of green glitter and sprinkles.

    While we love shortbread, we take the easier way out. Here are two recipes that will make you extremely popular with friends, family and co-workers on St. Patrick’s Day.

    They give a St. Patrick’s Day dress-up to two of America’s favorite cookies. (According to a poll published in Huffington Post, chocolate chip is #1, Oreo is #4 on the Top 10 list.)

    RECIPE #1: MINT GREEN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

    This recipe is from Karen of The Food Charlatan, who says, “It’s like eating Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream in the form of a warm, buttery, gooey cookie.”

    Note that if you don’t like mint, you can make green chocolate chip cookies simply by substituting the peppermint extract for vanilla extract.

    If you’re using another chocolate chip cookie recipe, make sure it is one with white sugar only. The classic Toll House Cookie recipe, for example, uses equal parts white and brown sugar, and brown sugar makes the cookie dough darker.

    We prefer this type of St. Pat’s chocolate chip cookie to another popular recipe, a dark chocolate cookie with green baking chips.

    Although tasty, the baking chips aren’t real chocolate, i.e., they aren’t white chocolate tinted green and flavored with mint.

    Instead of cocoa butter, even the best quality chips (e.g. Guittard) use palm kernel and palm oils instead of the cocoa butter. (Call us super-picky, but that matters to us.)

    Ingredients For About 28 Large Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract (or more to taste)
  • 10 drops of green food coloring (or more for a deeper green)
  • 3-1/4 cups flour, spooned* and leveled
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  •    

    Green Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Green Food Color

    [1] America’s favorite cookie, dressed up for St. Patrick’s Day (photo and recipe courtesy The Food Charlatan). [2] Green food coloring can turn food into St.Pat’s fare, from morning yogurt to garnishes like sour cream and whipped cream.

  • 12 ounces dark chocolate chips, 1/3 cup reserved, the remainder divided†
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Line one or more baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

    2. BEAT the butter and sugar together in a large bowl or stand mixer. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat on medium for about 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and extra yolk, peppermint extract and food coloring, and blend.

    3. COMBINE the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt in a separate bowl. Add to the wet ingredients and combine until the flour is not quite incorporated.

    4. ADD half of the chocolate chips to the dough.* Chop the other half coarsely, with a knife or in a food processor. Add the chopped chocolate to the dough, and mix until just combined. This creates more of a distribution of chocolate throughout the dough; but you can keep all the chips whole.

    5. COVER the dough and refrigerate for about an hour. Note that chilling is not mandatory, but Karen tried the recipe both ways, and prefers the texture and flavor that chilling creates.

    6. USE a 2-inch cookie scoop to form balls of dough and drop them on the cookie sheet. These are very large cookies, and fit 8 cookies per pan. Alternatively, use a teaspoon or smaller scoop to drop smaller cookies.

    7. BAKE for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies barely start to brown on the edges (you want the cookies to be green, not browned). Let them cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a cooling rack.

    When cool, serve or store in an airtight container.

    NIBBLE TIP: For a yumilicious dessert, prepare the cookie dough in advance and refrigerate. Half an hour before dessert, scoop it onto the cookie sheets and bake. The result: warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies to serve alone or with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

     

    St. Patricks Day Oreos

    Double Stuf Oreos

    Green Candy Melts

    [3] Green-dipped Oreos from Crafty Morning. [4] Double Stuf Oreos (photo courtesy Nabisco). [5] Green white chocolate, the real deal, from Merckens.

     

    RECIPE #2: GREEN-DIPPED OREOS

    This recipe comes from Michelle of Crafty Morning.

    The original recipe uses Double Stuf Oreos (that’s how they spell it).

    If you want mint flavor, you can use Mint Oreos (with a green center) and/or add peppermint extract to the candy melts (here’s how).

    Michelle’s original recipe uses half green, half white, candy melts, so that half of the cookies are dipped in green and half are dipped in white.

    We went all-green for St. Pat’s.

    As a substitute for the green chocolate melts, you can melt regular white chocolate and tint it green with food coloring.

    Ingredients

  • Double Stuffed Oreos (substitute regular Oreos)
  • Merckens green melting chocolate/candy melts/candy coating‡
  • Green and white sprinkles
  • Wax or parchment paper
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the chocolate/melts in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time until it is melted.

    2. DIP each cookie halfway into the chocolate and lay it on a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Shake the sprinkles onto the cookies while the chocolate is still warm. Let them harden for 20 minutes.

    3. REMOVE the cookies from the paper and serve or store.

    ________________

    *Spooned means exactly what is sounds like: You spoon the flour into the measuring cup and then level it off. If you scoop it by dipping a measuring cup into the canister, the pressure compacts more flour into the measuring cup.

    †Karen reserved 1/3 cup of the whole chips and pushed them into the tops of the baked cookies immediately after taking them out of the oven. This creates more “chip appeal” on the surface.

    ‡Merckens, a top-quality supplier to chocolatiers, actually sells real white chocolate tinted green! Candy Melts are made without cocoa butter, substituting vegetable oil. This makes them confectioner’s coating or imitation chocolate, not real chocolate.

    Note that for many years, a product called confectioner’s coating—imitation white chocolate made with vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter—was widely believed to be white chocolate. It is not, and doesn’t taste anywhere as good. White chocolate has cocoa butter, and is defined as white chocolate by the FDA.

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Pimp Your Cheesecake

    Only ice cream and cake surpass cheesecake on American restaurant menus, says Flavor And The Menu, a magazine and website for restaurant chefs.

    The article points out that plain cheesecake is a blank canvas, waiting for an artistic or flavorful treatment—or both.

    The next time you plan to bake a conventional cheesecake, consider playing around with these options.

    You can combine more than one on/in a single cheesecake. Check out photo #4: rainbow cheesecake with a “still life” top.

    INCLUSIONS

    Treats mixed into the batter can change the character, visual appeal and texture of the cheesecake experience. Examples:

  • Candy: There’s much to choose from: brittle, candy pieces (butterscotch, fudge bits, baking chips [butterscotch, chocolate, cinnamon, mint, etc.]), seasonal items like candy corn or Easter egg malt balls, toffee, a swirl of seasonal fruit purée, sugared nuts, trail mix. Just look around the store for inspiration.
  • Cake and cookie pieces: brownie, cookie dough, doughnuts, pound cake, crushed or mini Oreos, shortbread.
  • Citrus: zest and peel.
  •  
    ENHANCED SAUCES & TOPPINGS

    Forget the gloppy canned cherry or blueberry topping. Use the sauce to spark enhanced flavors.

  • Elevate the conventional: Think salted caramel sauce, Mexican-style chocolate sauce, framboise sauce (raspberry sauce with raspberry liqueur)*.
  • Fruits beyond the can: fruit syrup, coulis, a mosaic of fresh fruits, seasonal fruit purée or a “still life” like photo #4 (fresh berries, meringues, herb sprigs, edible flowers).
  • Ganache or icing, spread or piped (photo #2). Ganache becomes a semi-hard chocolate topping, like chocolate truffles (here’s a recipe).
     
    Consider turning the sauce or piped icing into a decorative design such as loops (photo #2) or zigzags.
     
    OTHER TOPPINGS

  • Smooth: Consider crème fraîche, chocolate ganache, icing or whipped cream, plain or flavored.
  • Scattered: Scattered candies add texture and color, such as like chocolate-mint lentils or coffee/mocha lentils or confetti sprinkles.
  • Sparkling: Add some sparkle with edible glitter.
  • Fruits & Flowers: For the most beautiful top, create a “still life” of fruits, meringues, and sprigs of fresh herbs.
  •  
    THE BOTTOM

  • Crust: Try a brownie or cake crust, or cookies beyond Oreos and grahams.
  • Bottom: Decorate the bottom perimeter with squares of chocolate or other candy.
  • Bottom-plus: The latest rage is rainbow cheesecake (photos #3 and #4).
  •  
    REFORMAT

    How do you want to present the cheesecake?

     

    St. Patrick’s Day Cheesecake

    St. Patrick's Day Cheesecake

    Rainbow Cheesecake

    Rainbow Cheesecake

    [1] St. Patrick’s design from Kraft, using a stencil and glitter, and [2] a ganache top with decorative icing, from Harry & David. [3] Rainbow cheesecake (here’s the recipe from She Bakes). [4] Rainbow cheesecake with a “still life” top (here’s the recipe from Taste | Australia).

     
    Baked in a jar, cake pop, deconstructed, heart shaped, individual mini, layered with cake, mousse, rainbow cheesecake square, trifle.

    So many variations, so much fun ahead!
    ________________

    *You can purchase the sauces and add spices, liquors, etc. to create your flavor.

      

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